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Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Stephen and Brooksyne with pets and Datsun pickup
Photo from our first year of marriage with our pets
and our Datsun pickup.

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"Aware Of His Presence"

"Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it" (Genesis 28:16).

I have a long-time friend who is preparing to go through a significant transition in life. He's very excited but it's a big step and inevitably questions and even doubts fill his mind. One of the great joys in ministry is encouraging others based primarily upon the Scripture and then our own experiences of personal application.

I recall a very specific time of deep discouragement early in my ministry after stepping out in obedience to God's call.  We were sitting in our little blue Datsun pickup and discussing our dilemma. Doors were not opening and I was wondering if I had missed God's voice.

Brooksyne saw my despair and shared a simple spiritual truth that gave me a powerful uplift and has many times since. Although we had dated for nearly three years and were married for over a year at this point, this is the first time I had ever heard this reassuring expression. It's as if it was stored up for such a time as this.  She leaned over, her voice broken at the time, as she quoted, "God will never lead you, where His grace cannot keep you."* We joined hands in prayer and again committed ourselves to God's leading and a wonderful sense of God's presence filled that little Datsun pickup.

As I look back over my life it seems that God's voice is clearest in the tough times. Probably it is at times like these that I am most sensitive to the Spirit's leading. Although we want to avoid the tough times, I believe God providentially allows us to go through them so that He can instruct us and give guidance to our lives. That's why I so often pray for myself and others that God would give us grace and maturity to actually rejoice in closed doors. I did so in a small group Bible Study last night.

The daily text is from a story involving Jacob, who had just fled from his parent's home.  He had deceived his father, Isaac, in obtaining the blessing that should have been given to his firstborn, Esau. Jacob was surely not seeking any spiritual encounter that night.  He was fleeing in fear from his angry brother Esau, who had vowed to kill him.  Traveling till the sun had set he laid down to sleep using a cold, hard, stone as a pillow. Ouch!  These are not normally the conditions conducive to hearing from God.

But at this very time God spoke to Jacob in a vision, essentially assuring him of His plan for his life and the fulfillment of His promises to his grandfather, Abraham.  When Jacob awoke Scripture declares that he made the observation in our daily text. "Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it."  The part of the passage that particularly intrigues me is the phrase, "I was not aware of it."  

God is still speaking and meeting with His people today; not only in churches but wherever, whenever, and however He wants to get our attention. We have a much fuller revelation of God's promises and know His Word declares some great assurances.  David spoke of God's presence in his most famous Psalm, "Thou art with me."  Jesus said to His disciples before returning to heaven "Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."  The writer of Hebrews reminds us that God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."

Today, receive these great promises with joy, fellow believer! Whatever your circumstances, however difficult or even hopeless they may seem; remember, the LORD is always in this place. May we always be aware of His presence!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily Prayer: Jesus, I am very grateful for Your continual guidance in my life and for Your steadying hand when the foundations are shaken.  Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for You are my safe refuge. In Your presence I find renewed hope, resurging strength and safety beneath the shelter of Your wings!  Your unfailing love will uphold me and Your sovereign presence will   never leave me nor forsake me.  What joyous blessings these promises unfold in my life day by day.  Thank You, Jesus!  Amen.

* Brooksyne's Note:  I read this quote "God will never lead you, where His grace cannot keep you" on a plaque in a Christian Bookstore several months before the experience Stephen describes above.  I mentally stored it in my heart, for I knew it would be helpful to remember this thought during times of questioning God's will for our lives.

Today's Scripture portion

"He Leadeth Me" (lyrics) is a great old hymn that comes to mind today as we prepare this message.  It is used as the background music in today's podcast and here are two online versions.    
Drummond Family
Marie Barlow

As many of you know Brooksyne enjoys hymn backgrounds. "He Leadeth Me" was written by Joseph H. Gilmore and I found this interesting background information and testimony:

As a young man who recently had been graduated from Brown University and Newton Theological Institution, I was supplying for a couple of Sundays the pulpit of the First Baptist Church in Philadelphia [Pennsylvania]. At the mid-week service, on the 26th of March, 1862, I set out to give the people an exposition of the Twenty-third Psalm, which I had given before on three or four occasions, but this time I did not get further than the words "He Leadeth Me." Those words took hold of me as they had never done before, and I saw them in a significance and wondrous beauty of which I had never dreamed.

It was the darkest hour of the Civil War. I did not refer to that fact—that is, I don't think I did—but it may subconsciously have led me to realize that God's leadership is the one significant fact in human experience, that it makes no difference how we are led, or whither we are led, so long as we are sure God is leading us.

At the close of the meeting a few of us in the parlor of my host, good Deacon Wattson, kept on talking about the thought which I had emphasized; and then and there, on a blank page of the brief from which I had intended to speak, I penciled the hymn, talking and writing at the same time, then handed it to my wife and thought no more about it. She sent it to The Watchman and Reflector, a paper published in Boston, where it was first printed. I did not know until 1865 that my hymn had been set to music by William B. Bradbury. I went to Rochester [New York] to preach as a candidate before the Second Baptist Church. Going into their chapel on arrival in the city, I picked up a hymnal to see what they were singing, and opened it at my own hymn, "He Leadeth Me."

Following the daily verse Jacob was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven."

Here's another great song that really blesses me called "Awesome in this Place"  Audio (mp3)   Video

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission; and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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